Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reading Buddies Published!

Back in November, my Leadership Team initiated an innovative safety net. Each of us selected a handful of students based on our state accountability test and district Benchmark test results. The goal was to begin a dynamic, two-way conversation about our habits, preferences, strategies and thinking as readers. We decided to begin a Reading Response Journal with each of these third, fourth & fifth grade readers in the form of letter writing.

The initial letters were delivered in a black and white compostion notebook labeled "Reading Response Journal" to each young reader. The first letter that I wrote to each reader was based on a teacher letter published in a chapter from Fountas and Pinnell's Guiding Readers and Writers, Grades 3-6:

This year, you and I will write letters to each other about books, reading, writers, and writing. Our letters will help us learn together. The letters will help you learn more about reading.

When you write letters to me in this Reading Response Journal, do your best work and share your best thinking. For example, you might:
  • Tell what you like or dislike about a book and why.
  • Tell what you noticed about the characters, such as what made them act as they did or how they changed.
  • Tell about parts of your book that puzzled you or made you ask questions.
  • Write about something in the book that surprised you or that you found interesting.
  • Write your predictions and about whether your predictions were right.
  • Ask for help in figuring out the meaning of your book.
  • Tell about the connections you made while reading the book. Tell how it reminds you of yourself, of people you know, or of something that happened in your life. It might remind you of other books, especially the characters, the events, or the setting.
  • Write about the author's style and how it makes you feel.
  • Write about the language the author used and why you think the author wrote this way.
  • Write about the author's craft - what was effective about the way the author wrote.

Write a letter to me once a week. The completed letter is due on Fridays. Use a letter form and include the title and author of the book you are reading. It is important that your letters are neat and easy to read so I can understand what you are thinking. Read through your letter to make sure that it says all you want it to say before you put it in the front office Reading Response Journal basket.

When I read your journal, I will learn from you, and we will learn together about books. What fun we will have getting to know each other and BOOKS!

Your Reading Buddy,

Ms. Ferguson

The student response to this Leadership Team safety net was exciting and I was eager to share my reading buddys' thinking on my Blog. Originally I had planned to take pictures of our letters and copy them into a post. However, after the winter break, I decided to add a bit of flare to motivate some of our more reluctant readers. I gathered all of my reading buddies in my office one Friday and showed them my Blog, my own Voki, and the cluster map that demonstrated the vast audience that "tuned in" on a regular basis. The deal was that as soon as each of my reading buddies had exchanged 5 letters with me, they could publish the letter of their choice by creating their own Voki Avatar. This idea was met with with "cool" and "awesome" along with "wow, really?" comments. By the end of the first week, Zaria wrote the following at the end of her response letter:

P.S. Ms. Ferguson, I just wanted to let you know that I have already written five letters.

So, Zaria was the first to create her own Voki Avatar and publish a podcast read-aloud of one of her Reading Response Journal letters. You can enjoy the published Reading Response Journal letters from my reading buddies by pressing the "Play" button on the Vokis in the column to the right of my Blog Posts. I hope you enjoy listening to their letters as much as I enjoy reading and responding to them each week!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fourth Grade Students Complete FCAT Writing Genre Study

For 20 days our fourth grade writers buckled down to hone their writing skills towards meeting the expectations of Florida's FCAT Writing Test. Students examined student work that received the maximum score of 6.0 in both narrative and expository essays and worked on revising their own writing using lessons learned from these students combined with teacher instruction, small group lessons, peer feedback in author's chair and one-to-one writing conferences. The initial outline of the 20 Days of Instruction was as follows:

Lesson #1 (1/5): Narrative Writer Transition to Landscape of Timed Test/Pre-test with Stamina Assessment
Lesson #2 (1/6): Benchmarking a Narrative 6.0
Lesson #3 (1/7): Understanding the Prompt – Circle, Box, Underline
Lesson #4 (1/8): Narrative Revise to a 6.0 – Structure
Lesson #5 (1/9): Narrative Revise to a 6.0 – Quick & Dirty Revision – Nouns
Lesson #6 (1/12): Narrative Revise to a 6.0 – Quick & Dirty Revision – Verbs
Lesson #7 (1/13): Narrative Revise to a 6.0 – Adding Details
Lesson #8 (1/14): Narrative Editing
Lesson #9 (1/15): Stamina & Pacing/Post-test with Stamina Assessment
Lesson #10 (1/20): Narrative Self-Assessment
Lesson #11 (1/21): Compare & Contrast Narrative & Expository Writing
Lesson #12 (1/22): Expository Writer Transition to Landscape of Timed Test/Pre-test with Stamina Assessment
Lesson #13 (1/23): Benchmarking an Expository 6.0
Lesson #14 (1/26): Expository Draft – Structure
Lesson #15 (1/27): Expository Revise to a 6.0 - Reasons
Lesson #16 (1/28): Expository Revise to a 6.0 - Support: Examples & Elaboration
Lesson #17 (1/29): Expository Revise to a 6.0 – Small Group Re-teaching
Lesson #18 (1/30): Expository Revise to a 6.0 – Strong Closings
Lesson #19 (2/2): Stamina & Pacing/Post-test with Stamina Assessment
Lesson #20 (2/3): Expository Self-Assessment
This was an exciting collaboration with Ms. Collins, my fourth grade Language Arts teacher! For twenty days I was co-teacher in her Writers Workshop. Each day we examined student work together to inform and sometimes revise the next day's minilesson, the order of lessons over a period of a few days, or determine which writers needed small group instruction and one-to-one conferencing.

The result was that in both genres every student scored at least one point higher on the post-assessment. On February 10th, the BIG DAY of testing, students arrived confident and eager to demonstrate what they had learned as writers. All writers stayed with the writing process for at least 35 of the 45 minute testing period demonstrating exceptional writing stamina. 95% of our writers used their optional planning sheets, a step often skipped by novice writers. We have seen great growth in our fourth grade writers in a very short period of time with this focused collaborative instruction!

Monday, February 16, 2009

100 Possibilities Realized at Mayport Elementary

We celebrated our 100th day of school last Monday with much ado! Students, teachers, parents, and community members have helped to construct the final list of "100 Possibilities Realized at Mayport Elementary" below. We have much to celebrate as we move through the second half of an extraordinary year!

1. We welcomed new Learning Leaders, Ms. Martin and Ms. Price to our faculty!
2. Imagineers were gifted Imagine the Possibilities T-shirts!
3. Mayport Elementary is an “A” school!
4. Mayport Elementary met AYP for the second year in a row!
5. New white boards were installed in classrooms over the summer!
6. The last of the portable classrooms were removed!
7. The Dolphin Connection board was created to communicate with community & parents!
8. Our new world-class 2nd-5th grade playground was built!
9. We welcomed students, parents, and community members with a Spaghetti Dinner Open House!
10. Girl Scout & Cub Scout round-ups for our young citizens!
11. Habitat for Humanity completed homes for our new neighbors and we welcomed new families & students to our Mayport family!
12. We survived and recovered from Tropical Storm Fay & a three-day school delay!
13. Students are enjoying our new, beautifully landscaped deck by the art room!
14. PTA continued its growth with the addition of a Vice-President for Membership and a Treasurer!
15. A fantastic Fall Scholastic Book Fair sold dozens of books to our avid readers!
16. Historic Mayport Elementary T-shirts designed & sold!
17. We have a top-notch Fitness Room with equipment to get our Imagineers into the habit of exercising!
18. Mimis restaurant at the St. John’s Town Center joined our growing list of business partners!
19. Mayport was named a pilot for the Compass Odyssey Learning elementary web-based instructional software!
20. Mayport was selected as a pilot for the Classworks elementary web-based instructional software!
21. New Math Lead teacher has focused on the development of our K-5 mathematicians through Math Investigations & Every Day Counts Calendar Math!
22. Our schoolwide bookroom is organized to support strong reading instruction!
23. All Imagineers were provided a student planner to promote and assist with home and school communication!
24. The Memo faculty & staff newsletter has kept Learning Leaders informed and prepared for teaching and learning opportunities weekly!
25. The Friday Flag Raising tradition has been enhanced with Patrol Imagineers leading the pledge and the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner!
26. PTA Fun Fridays continued with sales of candy, pickles, & popcorn!
27. District Accreditation visit a resounding success!
28. Foundations, the district behavior management program, has taken root in the rituals and routines of every moment of every day!
29. Reading Buddies established as a weekly safety net for 3rd-5th grade Imagineers!
30. The Jacksonville Symphony brought the Instrument Zoo to our 4th grade Imagineers!
31. Kindergarten hosted a Family Night with a guest celebrity Mouse from the book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie!
32. PTA Cookie Dough fundraiser resulted in over $2,000 to support the learning and achievement of our Imagineers!
33. The Beaches Honor Guard helped us celebrate Veteran’s Day at our November Flag Raising!
34. We have an instructional coach to support best teaching practices in literacy!
35. Two Technology Labs have given all K-5 Imagineers access to web-based instruction and software to improve their mathematical skills!
36. Mayport Elementary named Distinguished Title I School by the Florida Department of Education!
37. Book of the Month bulletin boards showcase our K-5 reading, writing, and thinking!
38. Two Science labs and a Science Resource teacher to give all students experience in applying the scientific method!
39. Kindergarten Imagineers go on a field study to the Jacksonville Agricultural Fair!
40. Quilt entered into the Jacksonville Agricultural Fair won an Honorable Mention!
41. Families came in droves for Thanksgiving Lunch!
42. Our Book Character Parade marched through the school joyfully in October!
43. Math Navigator was purchased as a safety net for our 3rd-5th grade Imagineers!
44. 383 Imagineers smiled for the camera on Picture Day!
45. Fourth & fifth grade Imagineers visited the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra!
46. Fourth & fifth grade Imagineers visited Mayport Middle for a special Power Team Assembly!
47. Santa Claus visited our Friday Flag Raising!
48. Families returned in droves for a Holiday Lunch!
49. 383 Books were wrapped by PTA parents & gifted to every student compliments of Books-a-Go-Go!
50. Holiday gift baskets of food donated by Imagineers and coordinated by our PTA were given away at Thanksgiving and before the winter holiday.
51. Second grade Imagineers go on a field study to IMAX to see The Polar Express!
52. Amy Bumpus was named Teacher of the Year!
53. Debra Martois was named Volunteer of the Year!
54. Third grade Imagineers learned about our Florida ecosystem at Blue Springs Park!
55. Fifth grade Imagineers learned about our Florida coast at the Marine Science Center!
56. First grade, & third grade Imagineers enjoyed a field study to our local Museum of Science & History.
57. Learning Leaders have participated in over 100 hours of professional development!
58. New courtyard doors installed in interior classrooms!
59. Fourth grade Imagineers participate in 20-day Test Genre Study for the FCAT Writes!
60. 22 editions of the The Mayport Dolphin Connection have gone home to keep parents informed of school events!
61. 383 Imagineers were seen during Vision screening!
62. Our Imagineers are getting better at estimations thanks to WMES competitions!
63. Hearing Screening was held for all K and 1st Grade Imagineers!
64. Benchmark Testing resulted in gains for all subjects and all grade levels!
65. School-wide writing prompts for Narrative & Report Writing!
66. Coast Guard volunteers spent a Saturday in January cleaning up our campus!
67. 100+ pieces of data have been gathered to help guide and individualize instruction!
68. 5 Books of the Month have been shared with our Imagineers!
69. WMES News has broadcast four days a week since the first day of school!
70. Tutoring is taking place after school to boost student achievement!
71. Angela Hernandez won the Mayport 5th Grade Spelling Bee and advanced to the District Spelling Bee!
72. We served a delicious lunch and breakfast for 100 days!
73. We delivered 383 children home safely for 100 days!
74. 100 days of physical fitness on the way to the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge have been completed!
75. 100 days of PE, Music, Science, Art and Media have occurred!
76. 100 + Positive Post Cards have gone home to parents, students and teachers!
77. Over 100 volunteer hours have been logged!
78. Learning Leaders have skillfully taught children for 100 days!
79. Custodial Imagineers have worked to keep our school clean and shiny for 100 days!
80. Office Imagineers have answered phones, made copies, interacted with students and parents, ordered materials and called in repairs for 100 days!
81. Ms. Brintley, our CRT Imagineer, has input student records and kept accurate attendance for 100 days!
82. The Media Center has circulated over 1,000 books in 100 days!
83. Exceptional Education teachers support diverse learning needs and accommodations!
84. Soar to Success used as a reading intervention in our after-school tutoring!
85. Kiwanis K-Kids Club was launched with 19 founding 3rd-5th grade members!
86. Coast Guard volunteers mentor 12 third grade Imagineers!
87. The School Advisory Council has met monthly to discuss student achievement and school needs!
88. We made it through the first phase of the ACE Community Meeting process!
89. Paraprofessionals administer a primary reading assessment –DIBELS.
90. Linda Bass speaks out and advocates for Mayport Elementary on local news!
91. We have given away over 1500 books to Imagineers through our weekly Read-a-Book Get-a-Book initiative!
92. Our PTA Board has met monthly to support Learning Leaders and activities for our K-5 Imagineers!
93. Extended Day has provided safe and fun after school activities for our Imagineers for 100 days!
94. Ms. Chalot & Ms. Faulkner have worked to organize our media center and refresh our collection of books!
95. We dedicated a bench to beloved Kindergarten Learning Leader, Peggy Fisette!
96. Leadership Team has met weekly to support increased student achievement!
97. Girl Scout plaques created to be posted throughout the school to inspire all with motivational quotes!
98. Parent Involvement wall created by front office to engage and inform parents!
99. Every Imagineer celebrated the 100th Day of School in grand fashion by viewing the display of Collections of 100 in the auditorium!
100. K-5 Imagineers, Learning Leaders & Parent Imagineers added to our “100 Things We’re Grateful for at Mayport Elementary” bulletin board!

100 Things We're Grateful for at Mayport Elementary

With 100 days of school already gone by, there are multitudes of things that we may never pause to give thanks for that are truly deserving. On February 2nd, our 100th day of school at Mayport Elementary, teachers, parents, administrators, staff, volunteers, and students took a moment during the day to pause and reflect on this very topic. What resulted was 100 reasons we are thankful and multiple votes for each reason. A few representative photos below depict the gratitude of our Mayport Learning Community:

Friday, January 30, 2009

100 Days of Possibilities!

Our Learning Community has rallied around this new school wide tradition with great amounts of enthusiasm and creativity. Our first 100 days at Mayport Elementary has been full of rich teaching and learning for both faculty and students! On Monday, February 2nd, the official 100th day of school, classes will go on a walking tour to view all the 100 Collections on display in our auditorium. One school wide bulletin board will be filled with student thinking throughout the day about "100 Things We are Thankful for at Mayport Elementary." In addition, a list of "100 Great Things Happening at Mayport Elementary" will be published in the weekly parent newsletter. Below are some of the magnificent displays that have already been set up for Monday's celebration.

Ms. Bumpus's first grade class showcased 100 balloons from their reading of our Book of the Month, The Red Book:

The office staff had a plethora of creative displays such as Ms. Lacsamana's collection of 100 bandaids from her work of the heart in the clinic:

Ms. Santana's 2nd grade class each drew a picture of what they thought they would look like when they were 100 years old!

The 4th graders produced a 100 square quilt of their favorite books:

Ms. Hastings' 5th graders represented 100 Reasons that Science is fun: We are going to have a 100th day full of celebration of all the possibilities realized in our first 100 days of school at Mayport Elementary!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January Book of the Month, The Red Book

This perfectly eloquent wordless book tells the complex story of a reader who gets lost, literally, in a little book that has the magic to move her to another place. On her winter-gray walk to school, a young girl spies a book's red cover sticking out of a snowdrift and picks it up.

I chose The Red Book because Lehman's story captures the magical possibility that exists every time readers open a book–if they allow it: they can leave the "real world" behind and, like the heroine in this story, be transported by the helium of their imaginations.


PNWC Chart:
K-5 grade students can think through this wordless book by making Predictions, Noticings, Wonderings, and Connections about the story with teacher modeling during the minilesson. This incorporates a combination of reading strategies that students have learned and practiced with previous Books-of-the-Month and Readers Workshop Strategy Study to help students make sense of this text.

Response to Literature:
Using appropriate grade-level scaffolds, students will use the PNWC class chart to craft their own written response to The Red Book. Teachers should refer to the grade-level Response to Literature standard and student work samples to determine appropriate grade-level expectations for this written work. Teachers should refer to the grade-level Response to Literature standard and student work samples to determine appropriate grade-level expectations for this written work.